GLENDALE, Ariz. — With a win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday evening, Arizona Coyotes goaltender Louis Domingue became the first goalie in Arizona Coyotes history, post-relocation, to win three consecutive games during his rookie season.
The 23-year-old goaltender went beyond that, though.
With a 4-0 victory over the Central Division Predators, Domingue recorded his second career shutout — made all the more impressive by the 12-game sample size. The former fifth-round draft selection is now 6-2-1 on the season, with an impressive .936 save percentage.
It’s still a small sample size, but it may be time to start considering Domingue as a player the Coyotes have a future with.
The QMJHL alumnus didn’t seem like anyone’s first pick for the breakout player of the year in Arizona — and he certainly isn’t standing miles above the rest of the team. What he does well is feed off of what the Coyotes roster players do well, and vice versa. He’s playing an impressive game behind an impressive club full of impressive rookies and sophomores. The Coyotes have earned their spot as the second-place club in the Pacific Division.
Domingue still deserves a huge nod, though. He’s hasn’t been the only player keeping the Coyotes in the race for the postseason, but he’s certainly helping them solidify their position in the standings. Where the Arizona hockey club had sat in a tightly-fought middle pack in the West Coast group of teams prior to Mike Smith’s injury, they now sit with a five-point cushion on the third-placed team in the Pacific Division.
“He just looks calm out there,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “He just looks calm and he’s always in position. It doesn’t look like there’s a big scramble… he’s just dialed in right now.”
It isn’t just Tippett who’s been taking notice of the play by Domingue, either. Both Tobias Rieder, who boasted a three-point game on Saturday night, and Anthony Duclair, the final goal-scorer in the game against Nashville, were quick to mention that having a goaltender they’re confident in has been a huge factor in the team’s success over the last handful of games.
He’s been a huge contributor in their three-game winning streak, and he’s been part of what has helped them edge their way up offensively. With 116 goals scored through 41 games, Arizona leads the Pacific in goals for through the midway point of the season. The structured game that’s helped the Coyotes score so many goals is made possible by Domingue’s solid in-net presence as much as his in-net presence is bolstered by a structured play in front of him.
“I think it goes hand-in-hand,” said Tippett. “When a goaltender is just solid in there, the team doesn’t feel like there’s a rat race in front of him.
I feel like the team has played solid in front of him, but Louis has done his part to just stop the ones he’s supposed to.”
For Arizona, that’s a bittersweet experience, particularly this weekend, as the club sits in the midst of the anniversary of former goaltender Brian Boucher’s five-game shutout streak.
Smith has been the go-to for Coyotes fans for the last handful of seasons, making some of the most athletic saves in the NHL. For every acrobatic stop he makes, though, the veteran netminder seems to get himself out of position enough on another shot to allow a goal that maybe shouldn’t have gone in. He’s made the stops no one expected him to, but allowed some goals no one expected him to, as well.
That puts the Coyotes in a unique position, of course. Much like the Central Division’s Winnipeg Jets, the club is facing an impressive rookie call-up whose limited numbers are significantly outperforming their struggling (but currently injured) starters. The money is being allocated to one player, but the results are currently coming from another.
The decision to play Domingue or reassign him upon Smith’s return is a ways away, though. For now, Coyotes fans are getting a taste of what could be to come down the line. With each passing game, that rookie anomaly looks less and less like a one-and-done performance. Domingue may just be the next Coyotes rookie to stick around for a while.